Want some insight in Namibian politics? I am no expert but have 16 years (1995-2011) of writing on Namibian politics in The Namibian newspaper and can probably offer you a bit more than you know about the who's who in the Namibian political zoo. You will also find a few articles commenting on other issues of concern in the country. Hope you find it interesting. - Christof

Friday, November 18, 2011

We Suffer From Terrorism Paranoia

FOR years Namibia's intelligence services were abused for political ends but in 1990 the new political leaders promised that never again would those in power be placed in a position to misuse the state apparatus not only to spy on their political opponents, but also to harass people.

We seem to have reneged on that promise.
Nowadays I get the impression that we have paranoia about terrorism and see a possible suspect behind every other bush.
I based my introduction on various recent personal experiences as well as those of friends who keep complaining about how their private calls and short messages from cellphones are intercepted.
And this will probably intensify as we come nearer to next year's Swapo congress. Whenever a Swapo congress comes up, the intelligence machinery goes into top gear with various personnel spying on others for either those in charge of campaigns or for candidates themselves.
Apart from circumscribing freedom of information (which will have an inevitably negative impact on our freedom to communicate), another implication of such behaviour by officials from a certain agency is that it causes fear among people.
Just a few weeks ago there was a big workshop which brought together government officials, academics, practitioners, members of civil society, experts from international organisations and representatives from a number of countries to discuss the practical implementation of the UN global counter-terrorism strategy.
Various papers were presented at the workshop including one on money-laundering.
Despite the paper having being presented at the workshop, The Namibian has struggled for the past few weeks to get a copy of it.
Before being made available to The Namibian, it had to be 'cleared' by the Namibia Central Intelligence Agency and they refused to make it available to the newspaper.
This is the same agency whose operatives keep harassing the media for documents and other information on a continuous basis.
In the meantime, reports this week indicated that a group of Members of Parliament from the committee on defence and security were taken through a session to “sensitise them on security issues”.
Some of them were very impressed with what they were taught.
This is exactly the outcome the spies wanted because they did the training to win them over for when the spies do things in the name of national security.
The decision by intelligence to block the release of a paper which was presented at a public gathering shows the extent of the paranoia we have about terrorism.
Almost every document is seen as confidential and treated as such.
But we should be asking: Is the confidentiality we attach to some of these things absolutely necessary?
Why should we, for instance, deny the existence of a document which is freely accessible in a public office such as a Government ministry.
Such action only justifies the concerns raised by different media houses and media rights campaigners about the lack of access to information in Namibia.
While those who block the media access to information use the lack of such legislation to their advantage, they are the same people who violate laws such as the amended Communications Act which calls on them to get a court order if they want to, for instance, intercept information.
Such things smack of hypocrisy and cannot be left unchallenged.
I know that Namibia was not the first country with a Communications Act which facilitated the interception of information and that those who are for it argue that it has mainly to do with ‘international terrorism’ and cyber crime.
However, we seem to exaggerate our actions against terrorism to the extent that we have now reached levels of paranoia that do not seem warranted right now.

The President Who Can’t Do Anything

I HAVE said it before and I will repeat myself again. President Hifikepunye Pohamba is too soft an individual to effectively fight corruption.

He has repeatedly vowed to fight it tooth and nail but in almost all cases where he should have taken bold steps, he falls short.
This past weekend the President was opening a lodge near Grootfontein and used the platform to complain about how the formerly disadvantaged Namibians sell off fishing and mining rights which they are given in order to economically empower them for the future. He has also spoken out on corruption on many occasions.
We know that Pohamba’s inaugural speech in 2005 was centred on his intention to fight corruption. He had also promised to release reports of various commissions of inquiry established to investigate corruption in different sectors but nothing has come of his pledge.
In my view, the answers to all of Pohamba’s problems are simple. There is no need for him to complain on public fora.
He has appointed ministers to oversee certain functions he cannot take on because he has to delegate some of the enormous work load.
Therefore, he just needs to call them in and demand answers.
If a minister fails to do his or her work, he must give a stern warning and show the door to repeat offenders. It is as simple as that!
But the problem we have is the secrecy with which Pohamba goes about doing things.
For instance, when he appointed ministers for his second term, we were told that all were given a terms of reference (ToR) and that each one was supposed to report on a three-month basis on the progress of their mandate to Pohamba.
It is something I commended him for because I expected ministers to take similar action in the conduct of senior management cadre in Government. If implemented correctly, it should have improved service delivery by Government.
But with the ToR treated as a ‘top secret’ between Pohamba and his fellow Cabinet members, we on the outside can’t hold them accountable.
That is why, for instance, the media can only point out the extravagant travels of ministers while we do not necessarily know how many of those trips are approved by the President and the types of motivation given for them.
The test of leadership is the extent to which those in power bring integrity to our public institutions. And one way of doing that is to be transparent about things such as trips.
But because we are living in a society where cash and materialism is used as a compass for progress, Pohamba now struggles to exert pressure on people he has appointed and surrounds himself with.
The result is what we continue to see. Pohamba using public platforms to ‘cry’ for help when he is the solution to some of the problems.
Had he revealed the ToR of ministers, for example, the electorate would have been empowered to ask questions and help him put pressure on fellow leaders who divert money which could have been used for development projects in thoughtless and self-destructive ways such as uncontrolled travelling and high claims of subsistence and travel (S&T) allowances.
As things are now, not only ministers but others such as those who benefitted from the Black Economic Empowerment schemes will continue to milk the system until it runs dry.
There is hardly any indication that the culture of entitlement which gripped us will loosen its hold in the immediate future.
At least not until people like the President tackle issues head on.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Khorixas Group Must Step Aside

THE Ministry of Regional and Local Government’s decision not to act against those arrested and charged with corruption at Khorixas borders on hypocrisy.

The Government spends millions on infrastructural development in various regions and also assists local authorities with bailouts whenever they are in trouble, yet the Ministry tells us that it does not want to get involved in driving out graft.
I do understand that the case in which the councillors and employees of Khorixas Town Council are involved might be regarded as sub judice and that they are not guilty until proven as such. Yet, it is best that they be removed from their work stations for now in order to ensure a smooth investigation and prevent any interference from their side.
As it is now, the chief executive officer, Nicodemus Gaeseb, corporate affairs and human resources officer Eben Xoagub, housing and property officer Daniel Geiseb, as well as councillors Berlinda Xoagus (who is the wife of the CEO and a former NamPost postmaster) and Elrey Esau, stand accused of concocting a fake tender to help cover a cash shortage at the local post office.
They are charged along with Jeremias Kheimseb, Isaskar Ganeb and Reverend Barry Goamub. Close to N$400 000 is allegedly involved.
As things stand now, all the employees and councillors have access to the Town Council offices.
In fact they report daily for work and continue as if nothing of the sort has happened.
For the Ministry to say that they cannot interfere is outright hypocrisy because Government has intervened in similar instances at other towns and villages.
Mind you, some of those who are suspected in the case have rights to sign Council cheques and thus have access to millions, such as money for capital projects and the build together scheme which runs in Khorixas.
Also, history can prove that lower-ranked employees in the Khorixas Town Council were suspended for things such as petrol theft the minute such acts were discovered.
Ideally, and if those suspected of involvement in the case were serious about the fight against corruption, they would have stood aside when the Anti-Corruption Commission moved in with the investigation.
That is why I am also baffled at the fact that Swapo, for instance, has not suspended their councillors, Xoagus and Esau.
In 2004, when Joel Kaapanda was still the Minister of Regional and Local Government, the Government vowed to weed out corruption in local councils and declared the era of State bailouts for embattled municipalities over.
After each election the Ministry also spends around N$500 000 on a series of induction workshops for new councillors countrywide. Such workshops are aimed at sensitising the new councillors not to fall into the same traps of corruption and mismanagement of Government resources.
Yet, after spending such amounts and when even more goes missing, the Government throws up its arms in impotence.
That is unacceptable.
Similarly political parties should bury their heads in the sand, because when the people rise up, the same politicians blame them for not following procedures.
This in effect leaves the people without the voice or the means to remove the corrupt and keeps the masses in conditions that cement the propensity for failure and poverty.
When towns such as Okahandja and Rehoboth had problems, the Government intervened to the extent that even the CEO and Mayor were removed.
Why can’t the same be applied at Khorixas?
I am saying this because it affects the confidence people have in the leadership and management of the town. And it should not stop at Khorixas!